Native Life in the Philippines (1913), or, Another missing film found in the Archives.

May 3, 2011

"Kalinga girl" lantern slide.
D. C. Worcester or C. Martin, Kalinga girl, ca.1913 (Penn Museum image 219033)

Thanks to our digitized and streamed film collections on the Internet Archive, Dr. Mark Rice, a researcher who teaches at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, found a rare 1913 film of which the Museum likely has the last remaining elements (i.e. portions).  To quote Dr. Rice:

“… Titled,  Native Life in the Philippines the film was a collaboration between Dean Conant Worcester, who served as director and producer, and Charles Martin, the camera operator.  Although IMDB dates the film to 1914, it was actually made in 1913.  At the time, Worcester was Secretary of the Interior for the insular government in the Philippines.  Martin was a government photographer who reported to Worcester.  The film was made near the end of Worcester’s career and was produced in order to support Worcester’s political aims of ensuring that the Philippines not be granted independence.  Shortly after the film’s completion, Worcester left office and embarked on a lucrative lecture tour in the U.S.  The following year, Martin left his position and became the first director of the photography lab for National Geographic magazine.”

In addition to the film, the Museum has nearly 200 lantern slides of indigenous Filipino people, purchased as a set from Charles Martin by Museum Director George Byron Gordon in 1914, as documented in his correspondence in the Archives.

Plans have quickly developed to restore this film, and to create a digital version that would re-insert the titles that Worcester mentions in his lecture notes (which Dr. Rice discovered in the Archives of the Michigan Historical Society) together with lantern slides of our collection, also mentioned in the lecture notes.  Added historical context will be very important, as well as editing for cultural sensitivities — many scholars have noted that Dean C. Worcester is highly controversial for his views of native peoples and for the racial agenda that he promoted in support of his own personal gain as a land-owner in the Philippines under colonial rule.

For further reading:

Sinapoli, Carla  Dean C. Worcester and the Philippines in Imperial Imaginings: The Dean C. Worcester Photographic Collection of the Philippines 1890-1913. CD ROM,  University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, 1998

Ebook at Project Gutenberg: The Philippines: Past and Present (Volume 1 of 2) by Dean C. Worcester http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12077

Bontoc Eulogy, dir. Marlon Fuentes. (1995).  This film, which critiques the exhibition of Bontoc Igorot people at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, contains some of the footage from the Museum’s version of Native Life in the Philippines; the Penn Museum is listed in the credits as an archival film source.